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Shared journeys will build stronger future — together

Phil G. Busey Sr.
Phil G. Busey Sr.

Creating our future depends on sharing the truth of our collective pasts, seeing our reflections are alike and accepting our neighbors. Learning about each other strengthens our legacy and commonality.

Healing division begins with sharing who we are with each other. Upon Scripture and as Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

If a neighbor needs help, most people race to their side — no questions asked about race, political persuasion, lifestyle or wealth. We help. The Bible emphasizes acts of love and kindness in the story of the good Samaritan. We need not forget this.

Oklahoma’s history mirrors America’s — one of tragedy, but also, sacrifice, resilience and triumph. Our grit and strength are forged from Native American, African American and pioneer spirit. Divided we will struggle, but together we can accomplish much. We are not defined by the events of Jan. 6 and our divisions. Our common history and spirit define us.

It is now our choice. Do we heal our wounds and country?

Change will happen. Do we determine it will be unity for preserving our democracy? We must come to know each other — not through cable news or talking heads. We must muster the courage to share our stories and see each other as Americans. This requires listening, honesty, truth, vulnerability, acceptance and seeing each other as more alike than not. We all face struggles. Many bear scars of a challenging childhood, loss and hurt. However, we also have our own stories of hope, love and joy. Our journeys are profoundly alike.

Our division is stoked by power, politics and personal interest at the highest levels. That is not who we are. Strength and goodness still reside in the people. We attempt superficial efforts to heal long-standing cultural, economic and racial wounds without digging deep enough to understand each other.

In business, addressing perceived problems requires peeling back the onion to expose the core problem. When people identify believed common problems, it usually becomes clear these superficial problems are only symptoms of an underlying deeper issue.

By identifying the real problem, only then can we work together to solve it. For example, injustice is rooted in decades-long perceptions and views of each other based upon status, economics, color or gender. Slavery existed.

Women were discounted. Immigrants looked down upon. Native Americans were almost eradicated. Yet recognizing the depths of this history can begin to understand a common legacy to, "find the better angels of our nature.”

As a society, we attempt to eliminate discrimination, racism and lack of inclusion by enacting laws and funding services addressing symptoms. However, we fail to admit these perceptions are real. Our shared past must be the prologue to a better shared future.

Changing the narrative requires facing the brutal truth of our unhealed history, no matter how stark. Thirty-nine tribes were forcibly removed to Oklahoma. Buffalo Soldiers fought them. Freed slaves founded communities. Pioneers staked claims. Others of all ethnicities came.

Together we are Oklahoma. Harnessing these cultural differences will emphasize Oklahoma’s uniqueness and help us grow stronger — together.

Healing and growth require owning the truth that racism and inequality do exist. Overcoming racism, discrimination and division means teaching these real histories in schools as well as through dialogue, talking and listening to each other’s stories. It will take leadership and courage. To define ourselves begins with understanding who we are as Americans and fostering change.

For Oklahoma to succeed culturally and economically, we need each of us — no exceptions.

Tribes are essential to our economic future. Eliminating discrimination is crucial. Minorities are strong in Oklahoma. There should be no labeling of anyone.

We are our blended cultures. Accepting our commonality is the foundation of our democracy. Let’s build bridges based on our shared history, learn from each other’s stories and respect each other. Through truth we can overcome.

It is our chance to move forward — together. We are more alike than not. As one, we will be the better for it, and our stories can inspire generations to come.

Phil G. Busey Sr. is chairman and CEO of DRG and The Busey Group of Companies.